March 23, 2016
“It’s always been a dream of mine to go to a culinary academy,” said Veva Cockrell, a program participant. She and the other students have spent Saturday afternoon in the UDW community hall, learning about packaging and marketing homemade goods – this is their second class.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” said Veva, who currently works as a cosmetologist.
Right now the students are learning about baking and selling desserts in the cottage industry, making goods in the home and selling them at farmer’s markets and other community events and going beyond the typical “milk and cookies” model to bring in repeat buyers.
“They aren’t just teaching us culinary skills,” said San Diego resident Anthony Magee. “They’re teaching us about business.”
The six month-long course is taught by Professor Sharon Y. Johnson and Chef Prince Von Coles and made up of UDW caregivers and local community members, some of whom are formerly incarcerated.
“We’re very excited about this program,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “Our union is committed to social justice and that means tackling the problems that face our communities, like mass incarceration. By giving formerly incarcerated community members access to free skills training like the culinary academy, we are helping in a small but potentially life-changing way.”
UDW’s Culinary Art Academy is also a great benefit for UDW members looking to expand their skills. “I heard about it at a membership meeting and immediately signed up,” said UDW home care worker Joanne Yard. “I love being a caregiver, but I’ve always wanted to get into the culinary arts as well. And the information we’re learning here is better than what I learned when I worked in the food services industry.”
For many of the students, learning how to run a successful culinary business has always been a dream, but they didn’t have the means to make it happen. And some already work in the food industry, but didn’t have access to a program that would help them further their careers – until now.
“I’m working as a sous chef, and I’ve wanted to go to culinary arts school before, but I couldn’t afford it,” explained Anthony Magee. “I love that I don’t need to spend $30,000 on the same quality education I’m getting right here.”
Right now, UDW is offering this pilot program in San Diego only, but hopes to expand to other regions after the first class graduates in June. “UDW is a community-minded union,” said Doug Moore. “The culinary arts academy is just one other way that we are engaging and giving back to our communities and our members, the IHSS providers who care for seniors and Californians with disabilities.”
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